Bishop Gulick's Report
Three in a row is a lot and I know that. Bishop Johnston shouted out the glorious news of where we are in the Shrine Mont campaign, so for the first time in six years, my report has nothing to do with Shrine Mont.
In the late fall of this past year, a member of my bible study group sent me (and others in that group) an email, an urgent email alerting us to a meeting to be held in Warrenton about the dangers of Islam. Not the danger of militant Islam, or jihadist Islam, but the danger of Islam. I attended the meeting and heard from a retired admiral that America would be a better nation if we had killed more people in Vietnam, if we had killed more people in the Gulf war, if we had killed more people in Iraq, if we had killed more people in Afghanistan; that’s not hyperbole; that was the gist of the message. We keep losing our nerve, we Americans, and we just don’t kill enough. It was odd because it was all about jihad. A former CIA agent told us, and she referred to Americans as the Chosen People which will surprise those of you who have read the Hebrew bible, that every mosque – every mosque, every mosque! - contains libraries filled with jihadist materials. The third speaker, among other statements, said that the only reason churches settle refugees is so that they can get money (your tax money) from the government to enrich their own leaders. And then the slide came up and there was Episcopal Migration Ministries. The Episcopal Church and Episcopal Migration Ministries were mentioned along with the Lutherans, the Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops. Since I personally have helped settle refugees from Vietnam, from Bosnia, from The Sudan and Myanmar, and I’ve never made a dime, but from time to time it did cost me some of my personal funds, I stood up and called him a false witness. It was an unusually hot night in Warrenton!
During the course of this past year, the community of the baptized, or as our new Presiding Bishop would say – the Jesus movement – find ourselves as Christians in America encountering the Black Lives Matter movement, based on the reality of the slaughter of teenagers and the murder of Christians studying the Scriptures. We are confronted with story upon story of mass shootings: we are concerned about gun violence…we just down the road in Prince William County yesterday had the funeral of a police officer who had served one day, and lest self-righteous white people wagged their hands at African-American and say all lives matter, what was so moving for me yesterday was to see the number of African-Americans that lined the streets to honor her as she had died trying to save the life of an African-American woman. We know there is a world refugee crisis resulting from the horrors in Syria and particularly in this election cycle, we are exposed to rhetoric about the realities of the immigrants among us.
We cannot turn on our news app without encountering these issues and the cacophony of opinions which result.
As one of your Bishops I have felt a growing urgency to remind this community of faith of our very basic Christian anthropology which will help us navigate these profoundly ethical concerns of our time. Paul talks about equipping the Saints for the work of ministry. I want to equip the saints here for the work of discernment as we live these issues in our time. Since we believe that the Word became flesh, anthropology and theology are forever bound – what God joined together in the incarnation of Jesus Christ – humanity and divinity – can never be put asunder. Theology and anthropology are inexorably mixed.
In the book of Genesis: In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Every human being – every human being is an icon of the Living God. Every human I meet is an essential sacrament of God’s glory. Every human being is glorious.
Glorious humans in God’s image do have the irresistible urge to be like God – that’s also in the story. And we re-… we usurp God’s prerogatives at grave consequences and early manifestation of this distancing behavior from glory – this missing of the trajectory of human Being-ness is to kill –not to keep our sister and our brother. However, God who creates us, also clothed us in that garden with skins because though complex and broken we are still the image of God clothed in new garments for the “school of hard knocks” called human life.
The bible, especially Deuteronomy recounts the story of a covenanted people who despite their sins, and despite their many stupidities are to be a light to the whole world. People who know God are to light up the world. In the last great five books of the law Deuteronomy always mentions the big three – the big three who are the objects of God’s concern: the orphans (vulnerable children), the widows, and the sojourners – the sojourners among you. Hear the word of sacred scripture from Deuteronomy: For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God mighty and awesome…who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the stranger – who loves the stranger- providing them food and clothing. For…For you – you! And it’s our scripture – it’s not the Jews’ scripture, it’s our scripture – For you shall also love the stranger for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall love the stranger.
In the New Testament our anthropology is always Baptismal anthropology – in Romans 6 we learn that in our baptism we were buried with Christ in His death so that just as Christ was raised by the glory of the Father so we too might walk in newness of life. As the dean of Princeton seminary recounted in the Christian Century two weeks ago, he reminded us that before Christians were baptized in the name of the Trinity, the deacon said to them, “buried with Christ in His death” and then after they had been immersed, the deacon said “and risen with Christ in his resurrection.” What the dean of Princeton Seminary said last week in The Cristian Century was, the great thing about that is just can’t scare dead people. Caesar can’t scare dead people who have been risen with God in Jesus Christ. Can’t scare dead people. And that is how Caesar lost his power.
An anthropology - our anthropology is our “in Christ personhood” and in 2 Corinthians 5:17 we hear if anyone is in Christ, she is a new being –behold, the old has passed away – see, everything is new; all of this is from God who reconciled us to Himself and – I just tremble at this – and gave us – us – look at us! – gave us the ministry of reconciliation; gave us the ministry of reconciling love. As people so in Christ – as people so dead to fear – that we get to re-present him in this world. And, there is no more radical anthropology in the New Testament than the anthropology of Matthew 25 where Jesus said I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was a stranger, I was naked, I was sick, I was imprisoned and you did it (or did not do it) to me.
Jesus has instituted yet another sacrament – another outward and visible sign – another occasion or another experience of His very Real Presence in the corporal reality of the hungry person, the thirsty person, the stranger desperate for welcome, in the victims of horrible abuse, in their nakedness, their illness and those, those particularly stacked like society’s forgotten detritus in our vast industrialized prison complex. I would challenge every white person in this room to read the book The New Jim Crow. If one partakes in the Sacrament of the Eucharist without seeing it as turning us into Eucharist for the marginalized, then the Eucharist is simply empty calories. We cannot let our fears or our anger be manipulated by anyone or any group or any allegiance at the cost of our identity in the Living God – at the cost of our and every human being’s sacred sacramental anthropology.
Our life is hidden with Christ in God – do not surrender your priceless identity – do not subordinate your citizenship in God’s kingdom to any pretender for your allegiance.
Let us without shame or fear as we prayed for four weeks in Advent, let us without shame or fear, claim our anthropology!
Let us be whose we are, even in this time!